White Whale is (from left) Rob Pope, Dustin Kinsey, Matt Suggs, John Anderson.

White Whale is (from left) Rob Pope, Dustin Kinsey, Matt Suggs, John Anderson.

When a bunch of seasoned salts from Kansas band together to embark on an epic musical voyage, it's no surprise that well wishers line the quays to wave them off. Advance reviewers of White Whale's "WW1" shout "Grandiose!" "Artistic!" "Primal!" "Expressive!" As the intrepid crew - John Anderson (Boys Life), Dustin Kinsey (The New Amsterdams), Matt Suggs (Butterglory), Zach Holland and Rob Pope (The Get Up Kids) - sets the course with its July 24 release on Merge Records. White Whale references their sound as "Roxy Sabbath," (Roxy Music + Black Sabbath), which affords only a hint of the aural storm that propels White Whale to strange sonic worlds and new musical adventures. The band's Dustin Kinsey and Matt Suggs put into our podcast studio for a friendly chin wag before casting off on their maiden voyage as White Whale.

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Interview highlights sans music

lawrence.com: Matt, you're the singer and one of the guitar players and this album is to be released on Merge Records, a label that you have some history with.

Suggs: Yeah, I've been associated with the label since about '92. It's been a long history and a great relationship. When we were batting this idea around of starting a new project I was in contact with Merge from the get-go, just kind of letting them know what I was up to, and basically left it at "We'll send you a CD when it's done and if you guys want to put it out, we'll be more than happy to oblige". And they went for it. Kinsey: They took the bait and we're ecstatic for it.

Kinsey, what do you do in the band?

Kinsey: I play guitar and synthesizer. I'm your basic jack-of-all-trades, everyman. You need something shook or banged on, you call on me.

Suggs: And then Zac Holland plays guitars and keys, John Anderson plays drums and Rob Pope plays bass and bass-oriented keyboards.

Matt, your background includes a band called Butterglory and then some solo albums:

Past Event

White Whale

  • Friday, July 28, 2006, 10 p.m.
  • Granada, 1020 Mass., Lawrence
  • All ages / $10

More

Suggs: :Which a lot of these guys played on. This whole thing morphed from the solo albums into a band thing and that's how we get to White Whale. Kinsey: We've been playing with each other for the past six years, on and off.

Except for Pope.

Suggs: Except for Pope. He's new in the equation.

He's put a new slant on things.

Kinsey: He's a hell of a musician. He's got more gear than you can imagine. If he gets an idea for something to do, he just goes to his closet and brings out another keyboard or a different bass and off he goes.

This is dense, textured, layered music. And I know there's a specific process that goes into the making of White Whale's music:

Suggs: Generally these songs came about with me coming up with a skeletal idea, a melodic phrase and some basic chords. Then I usually take that to Dustin, who embellishes it, adds to it, kind of smoothes it out. We collaborate and kind of make it into something even bigger. And the next step is to take it to the band. The band pulls it apart, builds it back up and jumbles it around-it goes through at least three stages, four I guess, if you count the recording process, because it even changes as we're recording. It's kind of a three- or four-tiered process.

Its seems that the spirit of the band is a truly collaborative one.

Suggs: I wasn't going to show up to practice with completely written songs. It was going to be something where the five of us just get together in a room and see what happens. With an idea-I don't like to show up to practice without an idea. There needs to be an idea, something we need to be working on.

Kinsey: Otherwise it evolves into a bad jam.

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Evidently the band wasn't kidding about their album release day being officially acknowledged by the state of Kansas. Weird.

The internet has changed everything for the independent label and the independent artist, also for the independent music store. What do you think the internet will do for the independents? Will it kill independent music, or expand it? Is it just a time of transition?

Suggs: I think its too early to tell. I can see in the next ten years that people probably won't be buying CDs anymore. You wouldn't have an actual thing to buy anymore. More and more, people will be buying the downloads. I personally still buy CDs and records-I'm not really into the whole mp3 thing. Now everything's just at everyone's fingertips. You can just do a Google search and read all about your favorite band. And everyone's got an opinion.

Kinsey: Right now it's ubiquitous but we'll learn how to filter it. We'll get used to the information overload. I think there will always be a need for that hard copy, and it may bode well for the smaller stores in that it's going to destroy the big chains because you can get it all online at home. The reason for going to the big chains was convenience, but there's nothing more convenient than downloading it in your own home.

Think about how many copies of Electric Ladyland or Sgt. Pepper's were sold by the cover alone.

Kinsey: We've got a pretty sweet cover. Get the CD, you open it up, there's a surprise inside.

Comments

turdfurgeson 14 years, 1 month ago

Oh, sorry.. i forgot my quote.

"Shit or get off the pot."

Unless you're going to show us how you're "making a difference" in the lawrence music community, whatisjazz... quit your bitching.

turdfurgeson 14 years, 1 month ago

Great idea. Whatisjazz seems to hold the secrets of music. Well.. scratch that. He knows what music SHOULDN'T sound like. So here's an easy solution. Whatisjazz's band can have the front page of lawrence.com and drive the Lawrence music community off the face of the earth. Or why dont you change our minds? Show us your band, oh so high and mighty one.

ilkeeze 14 years, 2 months ago

Music fans, mark your calendars!! White Whale is having a cd release party on Friday, July 28th, at The Granada in Lawrence. The show starts at 10 p.m. and also features the music of Ad Astra Per Aspera, as well as, Baby Birds Don't Drink Milk. A free CD will be given at the show with $10 admission!!

ilkeeze 14 years, 2 months ago

A small side note, Zach Holland also plays in a band called The Good Fear that is based in Arkansas and was in a band, Thee Higher Burning Fire, with John Anderson and Dustin Kinsey.

whatisjazz 14 years, 2 months ago

Oh my! ANOTHER Lawence, KS release that drowns itself in 1970's nostalgia. A very unfortunate trend. To paraphrase Basho: don't follow in the footsteps of the masters; seek what they sought."

tomking 14 years, 2 months ago

Give it a rest, whatisjazz--talk about tedious. Check your past comments (http://www.lawrence.com/users/whatisjazz/comments/?page=0), before you accuse others of spouting gibberish. Have a nice day for a change.

whatisjazz 14 years, 2 months ago

Review from Pitchfork.com: "Musically, it's the stuff of 1970s rock radio. Unfortunately, as with music that draws from familiar musical influences, White Whale occasionally lapse into more predictable territory. If it weren't supported by more compelling material, "Nine Good Fingers" would be bar-band fare. And their stabs at lo-fi experimentation, like "I Love Lovely Chinese Gal" and "King's Indian", just don't float..."

I only state the obvious.

"The basis of art is change." - Basho

jeromefaulkley 14 years, 2 months ago

is that robbie basho you're quoting? well done, you nostalgic motherscratcher!

...and using pitchfork as your source has convinced me that you know exactly what you're talking about. also, there's a little known magazine called the rolling stone that reviews music....you should check it out sometime to back up more of your well versed opinions.

whatisjazz 14 years, 2 months ago

Wow! You guys really can't handle an opinion can you? Why so defensive? Lord help us if my opinion goes against the prevailing pious indie hipster opinion. BTW, I would have never thought to call someone a "motherscratcher". Amazingly original!

I happen to feel that Lawrence's music scene has been drowning in 70's and 80's nostalgia for some time and is offering very little that is creative, inventive, or original. That is what makes a music scene vital, interesting, and worth listening to. We've been following trends not setting them. If you don't agree, fine. But get over it!

"It would be easy to write the first one-line review ever published on Glorious Noise about this record: "What up, guys, you're a couple years too late to the pirate/war narrative/Bowie wannabe bandwagon."" - Glorious Noise

"...overall just sort of dopey, held back by an ongoing infatuation with one particular mood that's rarely hit dead on. It's essentially guitar rock that's supposed to be a little bit creepy and feel quirky and massive in scope, but I really just kept thinking, "Wow, this is kind of a tasteless mess." " - The L Magazine

jeromefaulkley 14 years, 2 months ago

maybe you should just quote more of the western civ 2 books you're reading at the moment. now THAT would be original.

turdfurgeson 14 years, 2 months ago

I like this record.. a lot. I dont usually like anything.

greenjp 14 years, 2 months ago

I was completely bored by this music. Needs some balls. It just needs something. The songs that I heard don't go anywhere.

I wanted it to be rad so I could go see these guys when they came to town. I live in L.A and I like to support Lawrence artists but I won't be seeing these guys......

Well, maybe I will anyway, Idon't know.

whatisjazz 14 years, 2 months ago

Mmmm. No defense of the MUSIC, just personal attacks. I guess if you can't attack the message you attack the messenger.

By the way jeromefaulkley, it would be hard to quote Basho from a Western Civ book. He's a Japanese poet. That's in the East.

jeromefaulkley 14 years, 1 month ago

boo yah. you got me.

but, i just wanted to leave you with a few words from one of my favorite philosophers.

"I like mine with lettuce and tomato Heinz 57 and french fried potatoes Big kosher pickle and a cold draught beer Well, good god Almighty which way do I steer." - j. buffett

brainfreeze 14 years, 1 month ago

whatisjazz is obviously in a band that never got big. it seems like he only complains about lawrence artists that have talent and earn time in the spotlight. its unfortunate that someone can be such a poor sport...imagine how talented you could be if you spent less time complaining about everyone else's ambitions and accomplishments, and actually did something with your own life.

and good thing he doesn't know who i am, he'd be bashing me and my band next time we're on the front of lawrence.com....(well, he probably will anyway :) )

whatisjazz 14 years, 1 month ago

Once again, personal attacks but no support of the music!

Convince me that the Lawrence music scene is, by and large, NOT wallowing in the 70's and 80's! Convince me most of the "popular" bands and bands supported by Lawrence.com DON'T sound like any other indie band! Convince me that we ARE setting trends and not following them! I go to shows, I listen to the mp3s, I listen to the CDs locally and nationally. I know what I hear.

Reverting to accusations of jealousy, tedium, anger, frustration, or intellectualism on my part is sophomoric and simply avoiding the issue I'm setting forth.

I love the potential of the Lawrence music scene. But it has been frustrating to listen to the last few years. What I'm trying to avoid is the reaction of people like greenjp above. That is, someone not from this area listening in and finding our "next big thing" has nothing new to offer. Is that the reaction you want outsiders to have of the Lawrence music scene? Are you satisfied by that?

Do you not agree that a lot of Lawrence music is steeped in the 70's and 80's. Do you really think rehashing the music of past decades is a good thing? Do you really enjoy hearing the same kind of music over and over again? Imagine the Clash obsessing about music from 30 years before: big band swing. Imagine the Clash trying to sound like Benny Goodman or Tommy Dorsey instead of sounding like the Clash!

Over the years, the Lawrence indie music scene has had in inferiority complex. They wanted so badly to be the next Athens, the next Chapel Hill, the next Minneapolis, the next Seattle, etc. But it never could because they never had something truly different to offer. Or if it did, those bands were not supported. Case in point: the couple that became Mates of State decided to leave Lawrence because the music scene was "small" and "unsupportive" (as quoted in an interview in Magnet Magazine). They left, they got supported somewhere else, they became successful. Good for them!

It is not the success of a band that I have a problem with. But, as any observer of popular culture can see, success and creativity do not frequently occur simultaneously. Is it so beyond you that someone could care about the local music scene beyond their own personal ego?

Don't get so comfy in your little Lawrence indie world. Don't get so defensive when someone doesn't agree with you. "Don't play what's there, play what's not there" - Miles Davis

whatisjazz 14 years, 1 month ago

This whole situation reminds me of the story "The Emperor's New Clothes": http://deoxy.org/emperors.htm

The parallels are interesting.

whatisjazz 14 years, 1 month ago

Ahhh...the "love it or leave it" argument. The last refuge for those with nothing to back their opinions. And, a favorite argument of the far-right: "if you don't support the war, you must hate America, so leave."

Surely someone can come up with a better defense of the local status-quo music scene than that!

Actually, I AM off to Chicago for a weekend of some stimulating music. Enjoy the past while I gone!

jeromefaulkley 14 years, 1 month ago

good for you.

oh, and your analogy of what if the clash tried to sound like benny goodman....goddamn, that was pure genius.

but seriously though, what if neil sedakis tried to sound like woody guthrie? or if the four seasons tried to sound like hank williams? where would we be today.

(insert quote from some profound philosopher that has nothing to do with music here)

whatisjazz 14 years, 1 month ago

jeromefaulkley:

I'm not quite sure what your point is in regards to my Clash/Benny Goodman analogy. The screen of sarcasm masked the meaning. Perhaps I didn't make myself clear: innovative musicians are innovative precisely BECAUSE they are forward looking not backward looking. One needs to be aware of the past but not content to simply repeat it.

I'm sorry you feel threatened by my use of quotes from a poet and a jazz musician in previous posts. You're right; poetry and jazz have nothing to do with music!

Don't you just think that a poet (Basho) whose work has not only survived but flourished for over 300 years might have an insight or two about what make art innovative and durable? Don't you think a jazz musician (Miles Davis) who was at the forefront of development of four styles of jazz (cool, hard bop, post-bop, and fusion) might have a clue as to how important innovation is in music?

Just a thought.

whatisjazz 14 years, 1 month ago

I've waited a couple of weeks for a coherent defense of why rehashing the music of the 70's and 80's is good for our local music scene. But the only defense has been personal attacks, sophomoric defensiveness, and anti-intellectual put-downs. How sad.

Music is like a river: it must flow. Without flow, water becomes stagnant and lifeless. So too with music and a music scene.

I don't claim to know the "secrets of music". But I do know stagnation when I see it, hear it, and read it. And based on some of the comments posted above, stagnation has taken a strong hold. Good luck with that.

momjohnberg 14 years, 1 month ago

Whatisjazz.. Is this the wonderful murderama that is well known for making his taste in music known on all the local message boards. The murderama that got in a huge long thread about Ghosty a while back. And was saying the same stuff as you are now? Then later starting up something with my band, Kelpie. Because we were opening for all the "good, touring" bands. And were on the front of Lawrence.com??

You keep saying that people are just attacking you and not attacking your point. Well I wont do that. Ill just say this.

Maybe there is two points that should be looked at:

  1. Maybe you are the only person on this thread that really thinks this music scene is all about "rehashing" old styles.

and/or

  1. Maybe the "rehashing" of the music from the 60's and 70's isnt bad, and is only part of what makes a lot of the bands from here good.

Number 2 you might not agree with, cause maybe you dont look for that in a band. Thats fine. But thats just YOUR opinion. And not many people who support this scene, and like going to local shows here will agree with you on that. Cause i bet they like to see local bands have that influence in their music. Whether because thats what is cool, or whether they truly like the bands that came from that era. Who knows? But I could name of a ton of bands right now and would prove you wrong that all the up and comming local bands sound like music of the past. Esoteric, Superargo, Davan, and many others are bands that play a lot, get a lot of exposure and are local. But dont sound a thing like the 60's and 70's. I think the point you are trying to make is. YOU DONT LIKE A LOT OF LOCAL BANDS! and thats totally cool.

But you always take it to the next level and try to convince everyone of this problem that we have. I think the only problem. Or the biggest, is that we dont have a local label or name with Lawrence that people identify all the different bands that are from here and the area. And the fact that there are too many lazy people here. Its too comfortable.

I agree. We want to be like those other towns. But we will never get there without a label, or big enough band to flagship everyone and everything else. But people try. And there is a lot of really really good local talent that comes from this town that wont ever be appreciated. My band Kelpie tried for a really long time to do it. I felt like we had a good mixture of old and new. We toured a ton. Put out two records. Went to europe. But! Nothing. But never would I say, "This music scene sucks. This music scene has nothing to offer!"

It just wasnt our time. Thats fine. I understand that.

Im proud of this scene. And I think a label would be a big help. But I think much of what you said is a dead argument. Because the minute someone does something that sounds different to you, someone else on here will call you out and say, "Oh that sounds like so and so." Its all opinion.

kalcarloskals 14 years, 1 month ago

Dude, why do you keep looking to an old, tired, poet like Basho. Man, he hasn't written anything new in forever. How can you not see such asinine self-contradiction? But you're gonna tell me Basho is a classic and something we should all be studying forever. I sure think Bowie to be a classic of modern music. I can't think of anyone with an imposing name to quote after this, my friends all know I don't like books anyhow, and probably wouldn't be scared of someone who just has a library card . I'm sure you could think of someone imposing for me to quote to end this, and then probably a refutation quote. Wait, "Anyone who thinks the past has more to say about the present than the present has to say about the past is a fool and probably has their mirror backwards." -Kalcarloskals

Rob Gillaspie 14 years, 1 month ago

Big John Stud:

I don't know who you were talking to before, but it wasn't me. Haven't even bothered to read the article OR the thread (don't even know who White Whale is, I'm so far out of orbit from this type of music that it can't even bring myself to care), but someone told me you were down here calling me out, so I felt compelled to make my presence known.

If you honestly feel like you have something to discuss with me after all these years, come on over to my blog ("Sinema Parasito" http://www.lawrence.com/blogs/sinemaparasito/) and we'll hash it out. But before I go, I'll leave you a few slaient points:

A) Yeah, I used to LOVE bagging on Ghosty. But then Richard got kicked out of the band, and you know what? I suddenly grew to like them a whole lot. Go figure.

B) I've never even heard Kelpie. Seemed like pretentious tripe, so I never felt the need... I was only talking shit to get your goat. Glad to hear I made such a lasting impression!

C) You're right-- I DON'T like many local groups. I don't like many groups, period, regardless of locale... That's just personal taste on my end. I'm stuck in the past. Most of the bands I like haven't been active in 30+ years. You know why? Because music used to be FUN back then, and almost every new band I hear these days sounds like a bunch of art whores crying at an AA meeting. Not my bag, but that's hardly a localized phenomenon.

Which is why I'm making every effort to ensure that our group, The Spook Lights (check us out at http://www.myspace.com/thespooklights), is the most fun and ferocious band on the scene. So there.

Ta Ta for now... See ya in the funny papers.

Sincerely yours,

Rob Gillaspie

aka

Murderama

aka

Scary Manilow

aka

Quisp

momjohnberg 14 years, 1 month ago

My bad. Sounded like the same garbage. Easy to confuse. Hope spook lights goes well.

john

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